Actionstep Publishes 2024 Midsize Law Firm Priorities Report

Actionstep recently published its 2nd annual 2024 Midsize Law Firm Priorities Report (“Report”), a survey and analysis of the business priorities, resource challenges, stress factors, and technology realities and trends of US midsize law firms.

Actionstep partnered with Dimensional Research, which provides practical market research for technology companies, to conduct an online survey of more than 390 legal professionals who work at midsize law firms, including legal staff (46%) — lawyers and paralegals — as well as administrative support (54%) including practice managers, firm administrators, IT, finance, operations, HR, and other support functions. 93% of all respondents represent US law firms ranging from 10 to 200 employees. The Report also sought to understand generational differences in needs and experiences, with thoughtful analysis for firms to follow as they prepare for the next gen workforce.

Key Findings include:

Stress is a fact of life for law firm employees, but many are taking steps to manage it:

  • 72% of professionals at midsize law firms, unchanged from 2023, are experiencing stress, burnout, or are overwhelmed from work.
  • Stress is far higher among Baby Boomers (88%) than Gen Z (63%).
  • 95% have taken steps to relieve work-related stress, with mental health resources being the most effective, especially for Gen Z and Millennials.

Midsize law firms are doing well at fostering connection:

  • The majority of people managers who work remotely feel connected to their staff (91%) and to firm leadership (90%).
  • 94% of individual contributors who work remotely feel connected to other employees; only 79% feel connected to their management.
  • Baby Boomers and Gen Z are less likely to feel “very connected” to co-workers when working remotely.

Non-billable tasks continue to impact productivity:

  • 62% are spending too much time on non-billable tasks, up from 52% one year ago.
  • Tasks that have increased the most in the past year included entering data in multiple systems and document updates; marketing and business development tasks decreased.
  • Gen Z is most likely to indicate that eliminating double-entry in different systems would streamline tasks.

Law firms are adapting how they invest in technology:

  • The top business priority for driving revenue for 2024 is improving client satisfaction.
  • 65% of midsize law firms have increased their investment in technology in the previous year, up from 60% in 2023.
  • Biggest tech investments in the past year have focused on online capabilities surrounding document review and automated updates and reminders.
  • Data security (35%) tops the list of midsize law firms’ barriers to investment in technology.

“Midsize law firms are facing rapid change in the market and within their businesses. The purpose of this annual report is to empower firms with insights on the investment priorities, resource challenges, and stress factors most common across their peers in the midmarket,” said Early Stephens, CEO, Actionstep.

“Year over year, we are seeing firms investing in client experience as a top priority and linked to this, the increasing relevance of sound technology to drive improvements. We are also particularly pleased this year to share new data and findings focused on generational differences within midsize law firms related to team collaboration, connection, and productivity.”

Actionstep shared additional commentary based on key Report findings detailed above:

Stress management: Midsize law firms should tailor stress reduction strategies to each generation, focusing on streamlining operations and clear communication for Baby Boomers and providing supportive leadership for Gen X. Despite Baby Boomers preferring process-level improvements, the research suggests that mental health resources are universally effective and should be implemented by law firms for stress reduction.

Connectivity and collaboration: Midsize law firms are doing a good job at maintaining connection and collaboration among remote teams by using cloud-based technology solutions, with 9 in 10 law firm professionals feeling connected while working remotely. However, there is a generational divide in the remote/hybrid working experience of younger generations (Gen Z and Millennials). To boost connection, people managers can adopt strategic measures such as standup meetings and virtual coffee check-ins, especially targeting Gen Z and Baby Boomer employees to mimic successful communication infrastructures of larger midsize law firms.

Non-billables as productivity killers: Administrative support roles experience an 18% increase in feeling overwhelmed by non-billable tasks compared to 2023, while lawyers show no year-over-year change. The data suggests that administrative support roles are burdened with inefficiently structured tasks lacking proper technological support. The rise of time spent on non-billable tasks correlates with a 23% increase in stress among legal professionals who spend too much time on those tasks, emphasizing the need for firms to implement automation-based tools to enhance efficiency and improve mental well-being.

Technology keys to client satisfaction: Improving client satisfaction is a top priority for nearly half of midsize law firms, which, despite budget constraints, aim to compete by providing next-level client service. Investing in secure technology is central and allows firms to deepen client relationships and enhance service delivery. The adoption of intuitive automation and artificial intelligence tools in well-defined use cases and a balanced approach to technology implementation focusing on quality over quantity, are vital for successful adoption to remote work and overall efficiency of midsize law firms.

Download the complete Report here.

By Isabel Ramirez, Content Marketing Manager, Actionstep